White is the Color of Death: A Mystery

J. N. Catanach, Author Foul Play Press $16.95 (319p) ISBN 978-0-88150-104-9
Mordantly witty, extremely complicated and challenging, this is a first novel by an author obviously familiar with the setting. Catanach (a pen name) invents an oversized cast of characters, as gaudy as the Malaysian island where they are estivating. When Charles Quint arrives for a vacation at the Langkawi Inn, he meets millionaire Sir Frankie Jake and his wife Lady Gwendy, hosts to a reunion of members of a British patrol who had survived a jungle ambush 30 years earlier, before Malay became independent. The gathering intrigues Quint no less than rumors of a place called the Isle of the Pregnant Maiden, mentioned by an American anthropologist before she was found murdered, along with two natives. An overall edginess vies with the sunny atmosphere, and Quint feels the visitors are mutually suspicious as well as guarded against the exposure of a shameful secret. The situation comes to a frightful climax when the former British soldiers and Quint become ""guests'' of a vengeful Chinese bandit in a cave from which they can't escape. Catanach's debut offers rich entertainment although it is burdened by unneeded albeit spicy subplots. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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